Adam Ellenstein attempts 65-mile swim to honor his aunt in Austin

Adam Ellenstein, left, and his aunt Susan Scarlett. Scarlett, who lives in Austin, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Family photo
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Adam Ellenstein, left, and his aunt Susan Scarlett. Scarlett, who lives in Austin, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Family photo
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A Michigan endurance athlete will swim 65 miles across a Canadian lake this month in honor of his aunt, an Austin woman who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Adam Ellenstein, 39, plans to swim the length of Okanagan Lake in Penticton, Canada, starting on July 25. He expects the swim to take about 40 hours, and in the process he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest north-to-south non-stop swim of the lake.

The swim honors his aunt Susan Scarlett, 65, who will travel to Canada to swim alongside her nephew for portions of the swim. The pair hope that the event encourages other people living with Parkinson’s to incorporate more exercise into their lives.

Ellenstein, who has successfully completed Ironman and UltraMan triathlons, says some of his earliest memories are of swimming with his aunt at his grandmother’s swimming pool in Indiana. He got interested in endurance swimming five years ago, when he started competing in triathlons. Last year, he joined a friend in an 18-mile swim across Lake Winnipeg in Canada.

“That swim gave me the confidence to step up to the 65-mile swim,” he said by phone this week from his home in Michigan.

Adam Ellenstein, left, and his aunt Susan Scarlett. Scarlett, who lives in Austin, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Family photo

Adam Ellenstein, left, and his aunt Susan Scarlett. Scarlett, who lives in Austin, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Family photo

Water temperatures in Okanagan Lake hovered in the mid-60s this week. Ellenstein plans to wear a wetsuit, and a crew of 16 people on safety kayaks and motorized boats will support him as he makes his swim, dubbed VictorySwim105.

Scarlett, who says she wasn’t much of an exerciser until recently, will wear fins so she can keep up with him. Since her Parkinson’s diagnosis, she has started going to the gym three days a week, doing Pilates twice a week and swimming as often as she can.

Swimming, she says, gives her “that beautiful feeling inside of rhythm and sweetness.”

“I’m thrilled, proud and really enthusiastic,” Scarlett said of Ellenstien‘s upcoming swim. “It puts such smile on my face, just the idea that I can help him succeed is so beautiful.”

Adam Ellenstien will swim 65 miles across a Canadian lake in honor of his aunt, Susan Scarlett of Austin, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Family photo

Adam Ellenstien will swim 65 miles across a Canadian lake in honor of his aunt, Susan Scarlett of Austin, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Family photo

Scarlett won’t be the only swimmer joining Ellenstein. A rotating cast of athletes will jump in the water to keep him motivated. Among them is Austin triathlete Meredith Terranova, who will help pace him during the swim. (Legend has it there’s a monster in the lake, too.)

Here in Austin, Scarlett’s 92-year-old mother, Jeanne Ellenstein, will swim laps at the pool at her home at Querencia at Barton Creek, a retirement community. Even Scarlett‘s dog will swim in the pool at the kennel where it’s being boarded.

Others around the world – including people in seven foreign countries – will do their own swims to show support and raise money.

Ellenstein’s progress will be updated on the VictorySwim105 Facebook page here.

Ellenstien’s swim is a fund-raiser for the Davis Phinney Foundation, whose mission is to help people with Parkinson’s disease live well today. Parkinson’s is aprogressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. There is no known cure. To make a donation, go here.


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